Hanukkah, the holiday of lights

Hannukah — the Jewish Festival of Lights — saw families gather at Chambersburg’s Congregation Sons of Israel this month to sing songs, do crafts, light candles and have dinner.

Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. That normally falls between late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

This year it began at sunset on Nov. 28, ending at nightfall Dec. 6.

Chambersburg’s Jewish children made cookies during a Hanukkah celebration at Congregation Sons of Israel earlier this month. (Submitted photos)

Hanukkah, also called the Holiday of lights as well as as the Miracle of the Oil, is the oldest holiday celebrating religious freedom. More than 2,000 years ago Persians conquered Israel and denied the Jews the right to practice their religion.

After driving the Persians out of their homeland, the Jewish leaders entered their temple in Jerusalem to cleanse it in preparation of worship. One of the rituals involved burning consecrated oil in the sanctuary. But the priests had only enough oil for one day. Instead, it burned for eight days, long enough for new oil to be consecrated.

Because the Hebrew calendar follows lunar cycles the holiday falls at different times on the Christian solar calendar. This year it was very early in December.

The local celebration

The children made cookies shaped like dreidles, a toy, and performed in a play. Adults sang songs and participated in some other events.

Rabbi Ilan Pardo of congregation sons of Israel Chambersburg and his daughter Rebecca admire the lights of the Hanukkah menorah. (Submitted photos)

Everyone brought their Hanukkah menorahs from home and lit Hanukkah candles placed in them. A lovely sight, sharing the light of Hanukkah with the world.

The festival involves lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, commonly called a menorah or hanukkiah. The ninth candle’s sole purpose is to light the other eight, one each night. Hanukkah festivities include singing Hanukkah songs, playing the game of dreidel and eating oil-based foods, such as latkes and sufganiyot, and dairy foods. The colorful dreidel-and menorah-shaped cookies are a special treat, especially for the children.